Below is a review of the book Reaching Muslims by Matthew Stone. Reviewed by Don Little, Islamic Missiologist, Pioneers and Pioneers Missionary Scholar in Residence, Houghton College. Review provided courtesy of  Pioneers, USA and SEEDBED: Practitioners in Conversation. To Purchase: request seedbed.editor@sent.com to get in touch with the author who is willing to sell the book for $15.

Though he does not identify himself or give any background information about himself, the author of this little book on approaches to sharing our faith with Muslims has a background that gives him a unique perspective on his topic. Matthew Stone is Caucasian American, with Jewish heritage, who converted to Islam while doing his doctorate in philosophy. He spent a number of years as the leading American preacher/apologist for Islam before being led to faith in Christ through friendship with some caring professors in a Christian college. Stone has doctorates in both philosophy and psychology, and he serves as a therapist and pastor. He has been on both sides of the experience of seeking to urge someone to leave their faith and confess a different one. It is thus instructive that he begins by suggesting that his ‘model’ is the ‘Indiana Jones’ model—‘I’m making this up as I go.’ Stone repeatedly stresses that every Muslim and every situation is different, so one has to adapt one’s approach to the person with whom one is talking.

This first edition shows many signs of being a rush job (which the author told me it was) and it clearly needs a good editor and a re-publication (which I understand is in the works). Nevertheless, Stone offers a great deal of wisdom for our witness without really giving us a ‘method’. He conveys more a general attitude and heart for Muslims than a ‘model’ for an effective means of sharing the Gospel. Here are some of his most valuable points of discussion.

Since Muslims are people and are all different, every approach to a Muslim is a fresh encounter that has to be undertaken with an open and loving heart, ready to listen to and understand the person with whom you are in discussion. Thus bringing a ‘method’ to such relational conversations is inappropriate. ‘My goal is to explore the ways in which we interact with Muslims and the pitfalls in doing so and to think seriously about how we can do it lovingly and respectfully’.

Stone uses both his philosophical and psychological training in the counsel he offers. As a philosopher, he offers some helpful and penetrating analyses of the kinds of unhelpful and faulty arguments that Muslims and Christians use in their ‘evangelistic’ conversations and materials. He suggests a number of valuable tips to help us use more compelling arguments. At the same time, as a psychologist and Christian counselor, he offers some wise insights into how people respond to others, and how to communicate one’s love and respect for those with whom one is talking. To illustrate, here are some of his recommendations: (1) know what you are talking about (2) be fair (3) build bridges (4) touch the emotions (5) use stories and (6) and be timely.

A helpful discussion that I have not encountered before is Stone’s description and analysis of bad arguments that both Christians and Muslims use (Chap 3), and his discussion of how Muslims try to use poor science in defense of the Qur’an (Chap 5).

In Chapters 6-7 Stone discusses five different approaches to Muslim ministry and then presents and analyzes the contrasting approaches of Carl Medearis and Georges Houssney, and observes that despite their differences, both approaches are very relational. He then suggests that we can learn a lot from the way Jesus interacted with people in the Gospels, and in effect, follow the ‘Jesus model’ for reaching Muslims with Christ’s love.

Stone suggests that there are two groups of Muslims living in the West who ought to receive special attention from Christians: refugees and Western converts to Islam. Both are in vulnerable situations and can benefit from Christians reaching out in love to them. This is the first time I have seen anyone encouraging us to reach out to Western converts to Islam. This is a good word and comes, I suspect, from his experience and intimate acquaintance with Western converts to Islam. He reminds us that the conversion process often has a long phase of ambiguity and uncertainty, and that it can be quite stressful. A Christian lovingly caring for and listening to a convert to Islam can provide them with needed support that also reminds them of the love that Christians have in their midst.

Stone concludes with two brief chapters in which he gives counsel on examining our own attitudes and advises on how to develop healthy attitudes towards Muslims whom we are seeking to reach He finishes with a helpful list of warnings about what not to say to Muslims, and an appeal for humility in our attitude toward them.

This little book is a quick read containing much practical wisdom. Stone has a great sense of humor and his writing is filled with wit. It is written primarily for those encountering Muslims in the West, but has plenty of gems for anyone loving and talking with Muslims anywhere.

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